Gold miner St Barbara Ltd smashes production guidance: Is it a buy?

Around two years ago Australian gold miner St Barbara Ltd (ASX: SBM) was in dire straits after it was forced to shut down operations at its Solomon Islands-based Gold Ridge mine following huge floods on the islands.

For a while there had been hopes that St Barbara would eventually reopen the mine, but in the end it opted to sell it for a paltry $100. As you might expect this dramatic change in fortunes didn’t go down well with investors. They headed to the exits in their droves causing the share price to drop all the way to below 10 cents.

But fast forward to today and it is a very different story. Today the shares hit another all-time high of $3.62 following an increase in the gold price and the announcement of its fourth quarter production update which blew expectations out of the water.

The company delivered record annual production, as summarised below:

  • Gwalia (WA) full year gold production of 267,166 ounces.
  • Simberi (PNG) full year gold production of 110,286 ounces.
  • Total gold production of 386,564 ounces. (Includes 9,112 ounces for disposed mine)
  • Closing cash balance of A$137 million

This impressive performance meant that both mines exceeded the company’s previous guidance thanks to a strong fourth quarter. Management highlighted the successful progressive implementation of innovations in underground ore handling and waste storage as being key to the strong result.

The question now is whether St Barbara and fellow gold miners OceanaGold Corporation (ASX: OGC), Newcrest Mining Limited (ASX: NCM), and Resolute Mining Limited (ASX: RSG) are good investments.

The answer really depends on where the gold price goes. I have little doubt that these gold miners are some of the best miners to be invested in worldwide. But only if the gold price remains at elevated levels.

I feel it is fair to say that the Brexit has brought a lot of volatility to financial markets across the world. This certainly bodes well for the gold price as investors will traditionally flock to it as a safe haven asset. But nobody knows how long the volatility will last and for that reason I just couldn’t justify making an investment in a gold miner today.

Instead I would focus on boring high quality companies in the S&P/ASX 200 (Index: ^AXJO) (ASX: XJO) such as CSL Limited (ASX: CSL) and Cochlear Limited (ASX: COH).

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Motley Fool contributor James Mickleboro has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool Australia has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. This article contains general investment advice only (under AFSL 400691). Authorised by Bruce Jackson.

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